Stocks were poised for a weak open Thursday as investors digest disappointing economic news out of the United States.
Initial jobless claims missed analyst expectations, coming in unchanged for the week ended August 25. Personal income and spending both increased in July, but spending came in lower than analysts had forecast.
Many investors have been holding off on making any big bets before Friday, when Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke speaks in Jackson Hole, Wyo. Observers will be looking for hints from Bernanke about the possibility of new stimulus measures.
Europe is once again in focus following an auction of 5- and 10-year Italian bonds Thursday morning. Italy's borrowing costs fell, signaling that investors are more confident that the European Central Bank will stage a major intervention in the bond market. An op-ed by ECB president Mario Draghi published Wednesday helped solidify that optimism, as he reiterated that "exceptional measures" are justified to stabilize financial markets.
Meanwhile, India is due to release its second-quarter GDP data, offering investors a window into the pace of economic growth in the world's second-most populous nation.
Energy markets will also be in focus, with Hurricane Isaac curtailing oil production along the Gulf of Mexico.
The European Commission's Economic Sentiment Indicator fell 2 points to 97 in August, as European consumers continue to lose confidence in the eurozone, particularly when it comes to retail trade and construction managers.
The Business Climate Indicator, however, edged slightly higher, resulting from an improvement in managers' assessments of exports and past production.
Economy: The number of Americans filing for first-time unemployment was 374,000 during the week ending in August 25, the Labor Department said Thursday, unchanged from the previous week's revised figure. Claims were expected to total 370,000, according to a survey of analysts by Briefing.com.
Personal income increased $42.3 billion, or 0.3%, in July, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, coming in line with Briefing.com's consensus.
Personal consumption expenditures increased $46.0 billion, or 0.4%, for the month. This is slightly less than the 0.5% increase expected by Briefing.com.
Same-store sales data from several leading retailers, including Macy's(M), Costco Wholesale(COST), Target(TGT) anGap Inc(GPS)c, exceeded expectations.
After the bell on September 4, Sears Holdings Corp(SHLD). will no longer be trading in the S&P 500, since the number of public shares in the hands of investors has been well below the 50% threshold required for inclusion for some time, S&P Dow Jones Indices announced Thursday. It will be replaced by LyondellBasell(LYB), which manufactures chemicals and refines crude oil.
Shares of network equipment maker Ciena(CIEN) were down more than 11% in premarket trading following disappointing second-quarter earnings.
Pandora(P) shares jumped more than 16% in premarket trading, as the music streaming service said it broke even in its most recent quarter.
Currenciesandcommodities: The dollar lost ground against the euro, the British pound and the Japanese yen.
Oil for October delivery rose 6 cents to $95.55 a barrel.
Gold futures for December delivery edged lower 90 cents to $1,664.20 an ounce.
Bonds:The price on the benchmark 10-year U.S. Treasury fell, pushing the yield up to 1.65% from 1.63% late Wednesday.